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Got a question? Ask the Web!



The search engine Ask.com today launched a community of users that will be specifically tasked with asking and answering questions. Although Ask will continue to respond to traditional search queries, answers from both its search engine technology and the new community will now pop up on the results page.

There’s nothing new about posing questions on web sites and waiting for answers. Yahoo! Answers has done this for years and other sites like WikiAnswers and AnswerBag have been around almost as long. However, the answers are usually provided by random visitors and the person asking the question has little or no guarantee that the answers are accurate or even serious attempts to provide a legitimate response.

Ask Networks President Scott Garell said his site is concentrating more on Q&A because it can be hard to find good answers to questions that are time-sensitive and objective using a more conventional search engine like Google. The site’s hope is to eventually give users the answers they are looking for 90 percent of the time (it’s currently about 60 percent).

Ask has been building up a stockpile of questions and answers from users in a private testing phase started earlier this year and is now accepting others into the community on an invite-only basis. (You can request an invite at http://www.ask.com/invite.)

Moving forward,  Ask will route questions to users who identify themselves as experts on specific subjects. To get the best answers, users will vote on them. Those answers getting enough positive votes will eventually trickle into the search results. However, if you claim to be an expert in a particular subject but consistently give answers that users find erroneous or unhelpful, Ask will stop routing that type of question to you.

Tony Gentile, Ask's senior vice president for product management, said many questions being asked online revolve around how one should spend time or money or choose between a number of different options. “What we're ultimately trying to do is help people make a confident decision,” Gentile said.



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